Will my partner change if I bring him/her to relationship counselling?

Will my partner change if I bring him/her to relationship counselling?


The question of can people change is always an interesting one. The short answer is yes, we can all change absolutely anything about ourselves, if we have a strong enough desire to.

So the question many people have on their mind when considering whether to come to relationship or marriage counselling is: “If my partner hasn’t already changed the things about himself that I most have problems with, will he or she be able to do it with the help of relationship counselling, and just as importantly, will those changes stay, or just fade away with time?”

To answer this question more fully, it is important to understand that we come into this life pre-wired by way of our personality type. The personality system I find exceptionally helpful in understanding why we do the things we do, without being conscious of it, is the Enneagram. (more about the Enneagram in another blog)

So we each have tendencies towards doing things a certain way. Whether we continue to do things this way or change depends on whether the results of these actions are positive or negative for us. If we are experiencing either  positive benefits, or the absence of negative impact on ourself personally, then we will continue to do what comes naturally.

If, however we start to suffer from the impact of these natural tendencies, either as internal difficulties, or as difficulties in interacting with others or the world, then we can do 1 of 2 things:

controlling relationships

The 2 things we do:

1. Blame others or the world in general

2. Look at what in us needs to change for us to start getting a more positive outcome or experience.

Now, plenty of people take the first option, but that just makes you feel like a victim or cynical complainer- no chance of happiness there.

The second option is the healthiest way to go. Usually the extent of our pain will determine the extent of our motivation to change. It is usually as simple as that.

That is why often we can get the most stunningly positive changes in relationship counselling when a couple has got to the stage of being so sick of their relationship the way it is that they decide it is either make or break: we either fix it or leave it.

In relationship counselling also, we explain that for a relationship to have deteriorated, there will be contribution from both sides. In counselling many thousands of couples, I have yet to find a couple where it is all one partner’s contribution.

Couples often find it amazing how when we work on both sides together, how improvements can be so radical, so that the whole process can gradually become a joint project, rather than an adversarial one.

When talking about the stickability of changes, it is important to manage these carefully, and to have a check-in process in place to ensure each member of the couple honours their commitment to the other,on an ongoing basis.

More next week on why empathy is difficult for men.

Warm regards


Forget relationship counselling: We are just too different


“We are just too different for our relationship to work, and so relationship counselling is a waste of time”.  I had a new client say this to me this week, and it is a common thing for people to think.

But nothing could be further from the truth, so I thought I’d fill you in on what I have found from  relationship counselling with thousands of couples in trouble.

Have you ever thought what it would be like if your partner was exactly like you in every way? To start with, it would be physically impossible, but even it it was possible, would you really want it? Someone who was a clone of you except for the sexual anatomy?

Boring boring boring!

It is differences that make life interesting, it’s differences that give you advantages, it’s differences that give you other perspectives, it’s differences that balance you out.

It is often the differences that attract you to your partner when you first meet. For example you loved her fun loving nature because you are very serious; you were attracted to his neat organised structured way, as you were disorganised and forgetful.

Every couple has areas that they are different. There is no inherent problem with being different from your partner. The problem is only with how you handle the differences. couples counselling for recovering from an affair

For every couple, there will be differences that are so great that you feel you are polar opposites, each sitting on the outside edge of the continuum when compared with each other. For example: very responsible versus playful and fun loving, or very social versus a homebody.

The key factor in whether you see this as a huge problem or a huge gift, is whether you judge your partner or not. Do you sit at the end of your continuum looking over at your partner saying, or thinking “He’s such a jerk or an annoyance. Why doesn’t he do things like I do?”

Well, if so, you are wasting a huge amount of energy, not to mention a huge opportunity to see the gift your partner is giving to you.

If one of you is reliable and responsible and the other is fun loving, each of you is a gift to each other. Becoming more spontaneous and fun loving is just what the overly responsible one needs, and similarly, picking up more responsibility is just what the fun loving one needs too.

If  you can handle it as a gift both to each other and the relationship, you can enrich your relationship with your differences. The only thing stopping you is your sense of superiority and judgement which is the thing that will be killing your relationship, not the differences.

If you’re interested in further exploring relationship counselling, we’d love to hear from you.

More next time



Discover how compatible the two of you are


According to the Enneagram, you can find out how compatible you are with your partner quite simply by checking out what they called your “Instincts”

We are each endowed with 3 specific instincts that are necessary for our survival. While we have all 3 instincts in us, one of them is our dominant focus. Then we have a second instinct that is used to support the dominant instinct, as well as a third one, which is least developed – a real blind spot in our personality and our values.

These form what they call our “stack”.

Our instinct priority has a huge impact on how compatible we feel with our partner.

If two people have the same first instinct, they are much more likely to get along easily since their basic values and outlook on life are congruent.

Conversely, if your stack is completely opposite to your partner’s, then you can expect tensions and conflicts. Each of you will usually be trying to convert the other.

Most importantly, a healthy balance of all instincts is important. So, if yours is a different stack to your partners, rather than fight about it, you can seek to understand and acknowledge the wisdom in each, learning from each other, and how compatible are youcreating a better balance for both of you. Here are the 3 Instincts:


1. Self Preservation Instinct.

People of this Instinctual type are focused on enhancing their personal security and physical comfort, and can be preoccupied with the basic survival needs, for example, money, food, housing, health, physical safety and comfort. Being safe and physically comfortable are priorities, and they will often bring their supplies with them.

When entering a room, they will tend to notice lighting, uncomfortable chairs, the room temperature, when the coffee break will be, and whether they will like the food provided.

These people often have issues connected with food and drink, either overdoing it or having strict dietary requirements.

They tend also to be the most practical in the sense of taking care of basic life necessities like paying the bills, maintaining the home and workplace, acquiring useful skills.

If this is an instinct that you have least developed, you may not eat or sleep properly, and can lack the drive to accumulate wealth or property, or even care about such matters. Also time and resource management will typically be neglected, often with seriously detrimental effects to your own careers, social life and material well being.


2. Intimacy / Sexual Instinct.

People of this type have a strong desire for intensity of experience and intimacy. This intensity could be found in great conversation or a great movie. The direct riveting gaze is the  dead give- away for people of this type.

When they enter a room they gravitate toward people they feel magnetized to, regardless of the person’s potential for helping them or their social standing. It is as if they are looking for the juice.

These people can be intimacy junkies, and have a strong desire to fuse with someone, often neglecting pressing obligations or even basic maintenance if they are swept up in something that has captivated them. This gives a wide ranging exploratory approach to life, but also a lack of focus on one’s own priorities.

If this is the area that is least developed, you will find you avoid intimacies as much as you can, finding ways to not get up close and personal with people.


3. Social Instinct.

People of this type are focused on their interactions with other people and with the sense of value and esteem they derive from their participation in group activities. These include work, family, hobbies and clubs, or any arena in which you can interact with others for some shared purpose. They understand their own and other peoples sense of place in the hierarchy of groups, and can desire attention, recognition, honor, success, fame, leadership and appreciation, as well as the security of being part of something larger than themselves

On entering a room, these people would immediately be aware of the power structures and subtle politics between the different people and groups. They are subconsciously focused on other’s reaction to them, particularly about whether they are being accepted or not.

They need to know what is going on in their world; they need to touch base with others to feel safe alive and energized.

In general they tend to enjoy interacting with people, but they avoid intimacy. They are the most extroverted of the types.

If you have this as your least developed instinct, you will have a lack of interest socially beyond your immediate needs, with very few friends, and will not be very interested in people. You also disregard the opinions of others very easily. You feel you do not need others and others do not need you, thus there may be frequent misunderstandings with others.

It can be interesting to find out what both your own stack is, and also that of your partners’.

This can give you some great information about whether you feel compatible or not, and what you can do about it. For more help in understanding how these forces work in your relationship, come and discover more in our relationship counselling sessions at the Hart Centre.

Affairs: the 7 reasons why they happen

Most people entering a marriage or long term relationship are doing so hoping and trusting that it will be a monogamous relationship; so the discovery of an affair is a huge betrayal of that bond and trust with devastating effects on the partner and the relationship.

An affair certainly signals that there is a problem in the relationship, but most affairs are symptoms rather than the cause of the problems.

A key question to ask is “What problem in your relationship did the affair solve?”


Julia Cole in her recently revised book “After the Affair” has noted that there are 7 types of affairs each with their own associated reasons. They are:

1. The Door opener Affair:

This usually happens when a partner feels they have had enough of their relationship and is looking to set up another one because they are no longer emotionally connected or committed to their current partner. It provides someone to hold their hand as they exit their relationship.


2. The 3 legged stool Affair:

This is usually a long term affair that the partner knows about. When pressures get too much to handle in a relationship, one partner has an affair which gives him/her an emotional safety valve and relieves this pressure, and then the couple can spend their time wrangling about his/her unfaithfulness, rather than the original issues.


3 The Revenge Affair:

This is usually a short affair, but comes about because one partner has been hurt or betrayed, often by their partner being unfaithful. It can be experienced as a way to re-establish a sense of self esteem, or of a way to express their deep hurt for 8164886_mwhat their partner has done.


Stay tuned for the next 4 reasons affairs happen in my next blog next week.

If you have had an affair, or your partner has, you can be helped to work through this by seeing a relationship counsellor.



Would You Know If You’re In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship?

Name-calling, possessiveness, manipulation – this kind of psychological torture can be subtle, but the scars aren’t.

When Bec, 20, started going out with Chris, life was sweet.  But as time passed, he began to change.  “He started telling me what I should wear, what I should be eating and who I should be friends with”, she says.

At first Bec thought he was just joking, and brushed the criticism aside.  But his controlling nature got worse and Bec eventually stopped talking to friends and her family – because Chris didn’t like them.  “I knew it wasn’t right but I put up with it.  I was afraid what would happen if I broke up with him”.

You might think you know what domestic abuse looks like – the photos of Rihanna’s bruised and battered face are pretty hard to forget – but ask any psychologist and they’ll agree that Bec was the victim of abuse.  Abuse of the emotional kind.

What does emotional abuse look like?

“People experiencing emotional abuse feel trapped”, says psychologist, Angelica Bilibio.  “Often, people don’t realise that they’re in an emotionally abusive relationship because it’s not as tangible as other forms of violence.  But it’s psychological violence, and can be as bad as physical and sexual abuse”.

It’s precisely because this kind of relationship is so subtle, and slow to develop, that it can be difficult to recognise as being toxic.

relationship difficulties

Alarm bells

So what is emotional abuse?  “Common signs include a lack of empathy for the victim; anger; demanding and selfish behaviour; destructive patterns when dealing with conflict; and an emotional climate marked by hot and cold”, says Bilibio.

“The victim feels ‘unseen’ in the relationship, and that they’re constantly walking on eggshells”.

Also, forget the idea that abuse always involves a physical element, adds psychologist, David Indermaur.  “Many perpetrators of domestic violence never actually hit their victim”, he says.

The long-term effects of this kind of abuse include major trust issues, low self-esteem, health problems, depression, anxiety, and a decrease in functioning (think: work and sleep problems).

When love is all too blind

 In unhealthy relationships, it can be difficult to accept that the person you love is hurting you.  Domestic abusers exploit the other person’s affection or dependency for their personal gain.  “They can be very convincing, loving and appreciative”, says Bilibio.

The abuser regularly uses push-and-pull tactics to assert control.  Bec recalls, “Chris would say something really rude, and then if I got offended he would blame himself and apologise profusely.  It was really confusing.  He came from a pretty violent family, so it also frightened me”.

It’s especially hard to see things straight if you’re not that experienced with relationships.  Emma was 18 when she met 24-year-old David.  “It was my first adult relationship”, she says.  “I just thought every guy acted like this”.

David discouraged Emma from seeing her friends, and made negative comments about her weight.  Over time her confidence was so diminished, she no longer knew what was normal.

“Eventually, my parents sat me down.  I began to realise his behaviour was wrong.  When I think about abuse, I think about violence – but emotional abuse is so subtle.  You begin to doubt your inner voice because you’ve become so groomed and manipulated that you can’t see right from wrong”.

emotional abuse

 Danger zone

 When a cycle of dysfunction starts to feel normal, it becomes harder to get out.  It took Cara, now 31, four years to leave her boyfriend, Josh.

“Every day there was a negative comment – ‘you’re fat, you’re ugly, I’m the only one who would possibly want you’”, she recalls.  But the abuse didn’t stop there.  At first it was a few pushes.  Then, when she fell pregnant and opted to have an abortion, Josh punched her in the stomach repeatedly.

It got so bad Cara contemplated suicide.  “It was the darkest moment of my life”, she says.  The violence went on until the day Josh tried to strangle her.  “I thought, ‘Holy sh!t, I’m gonna die, because of this idiot’”.

She finally walked out, but the scars remain.  Over the course of their relationship she’d racked up $150 000 debt on her credit card to support him, put on 60kg, and lost her career in law.  “I’m still undoing the damage from that time now”, Cara admits.

Getting out

 Summoning the courage to leave can be the hardest part.  If you decide to go, tell a friend first.  “Have a safety plan, and deliver the news remotely”, advises Indermaur.  “Research shows that the most dangerous time for a woman is at that particular moment”.

If you’re not sure whether you’re being emotionally abused, consider this:  “A relationship should make you feel better than when you’re by yourself”, says Indermaur.  If you don’t feel good around him, talk to a trusted friend or a professional

 How can you be a friend in need?

 Worried that someone you know could be caught in an emotionally abuse relationship?

Gentle, clear intervention and unconditional support is the best way to go.  Be careful not to be too critical about their partner.  “Most women will get their guard up”, says Cara.  “If friends had approached me in a logical way and given me an article on domestic violence, I’d probably have read the characteristics, and gone, ‘Oh my God, that’s me’”.

Indermaur suggests it’s better to listen than to give advice.  “Let the person know what’s normal and what’s not – that kind of clarity is often very helpful”.

If you are experiencing any of these signs of emotional abuse or if you are not sure and would like to talk it over with a professional, we have experienced Relationship Psychologists in Sydney and all capital and large regional  cities in Australia. We can help you. Contact us now.

(This is an article written in the July 2013 edition of Cosmopolitan magazine where 2 of our

Sydney Hart Psychologists Angelica Bilibio & David Indermaur were interviewed.)

Have you lost yourself in your relationship?

Why is it that droves of smart, competent, savvy, successful women right across the world, are still waking up to find that they have lost or diminished themselves in their relationship yet again?

Having counselled many thousands of women in their relationships and individually over the last 12 years as a Psychologist, one of the most striking patterns I have discovered is how little women, truly love and honor themselves, and it particularly shows up in their relationships.

Many women neither know of, nor believe in, their own true power.

Even with a generation of women’s liberation, there are many secret places where women still do not feel and act on their true and authentic power.

Are you one of the many women who, although successful in many ways in their lives, have not found your full female power yet, and particularly in your closest relationships?

The explanations for this seem to lie in both the biological differences between the sexes, and as well, your personality type and tendencies.

Women’s biology

Biologically, both the female brain and the effects of estrogen in their system means that women are built primarily for connection and social harmony, and that is what drives a female to do from birth.

Without being conscious of it at all, maintaining the social approval of others, and the relationship at all costs is the goal, if you are “wired” and “marinated” as a girl.

For men, it’s a very different story. The flow of Testosterone, combined with their brain makeup, leads them to want to be potent and affect the world, and value personal strength, protection, providing and sexual prowess.

So, in summary and in general, women put their relationship needs first, their personal needs second; and men put their own needs first, and their relationship needs second.

Or alternatively, women tend to over-function in their togetherness and emotional closeness, and under-function in their independent, individual self.

Men, on the other hand, tend towards over-functioning on their individual self, and under-functioning in their togetherness and emotional closeness.

To have a happy life with a fabulous relationship, we need BOTH in equal measures.

If you are a woman, who has lost a lot of yourself in your relationship, then the solution is learning how and where this has happened, and how you can become more true to yourself and go for what you love, first and foremost.

There are 2 steps in the empowerment process.

relationship empowerment marriage counselling

Step 1. Discover just what you have given up for love.

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • What do you do for love, that you wouldn’t do otherwise?
  • How have you shrunk, or squashed yourself in your relationship? (like as soon as you think of something you would like or love, you just cancel it in your own mind)
  • Where are you feeling contracted in your life, and does it relate to your being in your relationship?
  • Have you lost the feeling of your own potential? What parts of yourself have you not yet experienced or explored, or lost?
  • What aspects of your relationship drain you and your energy?
  • Where have you defined yourself as your partner defines you?
  • Where have you behaved in ways because you sought your partner’s approval?

relationship empowerment

Step 2. Start tapping into your Inner Authentic Power

  1. First stop what’s not been working
  2. Start with you by designing your life from the inside out.
  3. Use your anger and resentment as your Wake-up Call
  4. Saying No and meaning it.
  5. Being assertive with power and ease.
  6. Finding the hero in him
  7. Finding your Goddess energy, and showing your man the difference between love making and sex.


It’s women who create life. Women who inspire. 
Women who can bring out the hero in every ordinary man.
Women who understand the language of ecstasy.
Ah, what a privilege it is to be a woman” (Regina Thomashauer)
If you need help with empowering yourself in your relationship, we have Individual and  Relationship Psychologists in Sydney and all other capital cities and large regional areas of Australia. Call us now for an appointment or you can use our Search box to the right of this page to find our Psychologist closest to you

What is Narcissism and what is Narcissistic behaviour?

An integral part of a healthy relationship is a sense of equality and consideration and empathy for each other. In fact no relationship can feel rewarding and supportive if either partner is mostly self absorbed.

It was once joked that “a Narcissist is someone who after taking the trash out gives the impression he just cleaned the whole house”.

If you have ever felt that  your partner feels superior to others, or more entitled to things than others, then this may mean that he or she may have more than their fair share of Narcissistic tendencies. Perhaps he/she finds a host of ways to devalue you or ignore you, or perhaps  try to control you?

Or perhaps, if you are honest with yourself, it might be you who has many of these characteristics?

If you are in a relationship with a Narcissist, it will feel like a very one-sided relationship. 

Narcissism is considered a spectrum Disorder, which means that there are degrees of manifestation of the characteristics, so a person could have a couple of Narcissistic traits, which is considered fairly normal, or have many and be considered to have a full blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as defined in the DSMV, or sit anywhere in between.

To discover where you or your partner sit in relation to these characteristics, here are the 9 Essential Characteristics of the Narcissistic Spectrum.


 The 9 Characteristics of Narcissism

  1. An exaggerated or grandiose sense of self importance that isn’t supported by reality. He/she believes that his/her priorities, interests, opinions and beliefs are better than or more important than others and as a result, they feel entitled to dominate and control those around them. He/she can even seem quite modest in public about these views, but usually at home these are evident.
  2. A preoccupation with fantasies of extraordinary success, power, beauty or love. He/she lives more in a fantasy world of their own making than in reality of both successes and recognised failures.
  3. A belief that he/she is special and unique and can only be understood by other special people. He/she sees himself/herself as more special than others, whether it be more accomplished, more feeling, more giving, more ethical, more long suffering, more insightful, etc.
  4. An intense need for admiration. When in conversation, he/she can’t listen attentively and will bring the conversation back around to him/her. Often partners of a Narcissist will refer to the one thing they have in common with their Narcissist partner is that they both love him/her.
  5. A delusional sense of entitlement. He/she feels that rules, regulations and normal standards don’t apply to them, and also may find hard work, working toward a goal, illness and injury difficult to cope with, as they believe themselves to be above these kind of common things.
  6. A tendency to exploit others without guilt and remorse. He/she is a “user” who may manipulate situations such that others end up doing all the work (and the Narcissist often gets the glory), or may end up losing their money. He/she will also promise things that they never deliver on.
  7. An absence of meaningful empathy for others. This is almost a universal trait with all Narcissists. He/she is so caught up in their own grandiose fantasy life that they pay no real attention to others in any genuine way. In the courting stage, he/she will use “fake empathy”, but beyond this stage, partners of Narcissists feel completely unsupported and not understood.
  8. A tendency to be envious or to assume that he/she is the object of others envy. He/she will be very envious if others close by have more than him/her, and will usually express this as contempt, distain and belittling towards them.
  9. An arrogant attitude. He/she will often be judgemental and condescending toward anyone who they feel is not up to their high standards and will regularly “put down” others to bolsternarcissism their own self esteem.

Now that you know the overall characteristics of Narcissism, here is a list of the many specific and subtle characteristics. The more you find in your partner (or yourself) the closer they (or you) are to a Narcissistic Personality Disorder end of the spectrum, which means the more difficult (or impossible) they will be to live with, or to maintain a healthy relationship with.

Research has shown that approximately 75% of those with Narcissistic traits are male and 25% are female.


How Can I tell if my partner is Narcissistic?

Our 100 point Narcissist Profile:

1. One minute he/she appears loving and appreciative, the next minute he/she is putting you down, punishing youor giving you the silent treatment.

2. He/she feels entitled to special or preferential treatment because of who he/she is.

3. He/she lacks humility and will avoid admitting that he/she is wrong or to blame for anything.

4. You get the sense that he/she is always trying to gain the upper hand with you and others.

5. He/she always talks of himself/herself in glowing grandiose terms.

6. He/she never admits his/her problems or insecurities.

7. He/she says words with such conviction, but you get the strange feeling that they don’t represent the real orwhole truth or are a distortion of the truth.

8. It’s hard to feel completely relaxed and good in his/her presence.

9. He/she seems very agitated and angry when you are happy of your own accord, unless he/she has been the source of your happiness.

10. He/she often feels misunderstood by others.

11. He/she appears wonderful to outsiders but is often very mean at home to you and the children. (street angel/home devil)

12. He/she doesn’t seem to have any real presence or depth to him/her.

13. He/she is most happy and delightful when you are admiring or adoring him/her.

14. He/she is not honest or truthful. He/she will bend the truth to suit his/her own ends.

15. He/she doesn’t understand you well at all.

16. He/she has no real empathy or compassion for you when you are distressed, or for any of your feelings.

17. You are starting to question your own truth and reality as you are being told how bad or wrong you are with such authority.

18. You are starting to believe hi/hers criticisms that you are no good as a person.

19. You notice that when you are away from him/her and with other people you feel so much better, happier and can have fun and relax.

20. He/she tells you untruths that torment you.

21. You find yourself in discussions that are so twisted that it feels like you are losing your mind

22. You often find you are trying to justify yourself and explain what you think reasonable people alreadyknow.

23. He/she says cruel, uncaring and dismissive things without any empathy for the hurt he/she is causing

24. He/she makes agreements that he/she doesn’t keep, and then does not acknowledge ever making them.

25. You often feel he/she wants it all his/her own way, and is not really interested in finding a win-win solution.

26. You often feel that he/she is against you, and that you are being cast as the enemy.

27. He/she doesn’t take any of your expressed needs into account

28. You are blamed by him/her for problems.

29. He/she undervalues contributions you have made, and overvalues his own.

30. He/she never or rarely apologises for anything he/she has done.

31. He/she is not accountable for his/her actions on many occasions.

32. He/she will rubbish and blame you to others, behind your back.

33. He/she will regularly bring in allies (family and friends) to back up his/her view that you are to blame.

34. He/she will pathologise you to others, family and friends saying that you are not psychologically stable.

35. He/she will use sensitive information you have disclosed to him/her when you were vulnerable and trusting ofhim/her as a weapon against you.

36. He/she doesn’t follow through on promises.

37. He/she has no tolerance for even the slightest criticism, or even constructive advice.

38.  When you need help, he/she gets depressed, angry or abusive.

39. His/her behaviour vacillates between very delightful and very mean and nasty.

40. To gleam praise from others he/she will appear helpful and generous.

41. You often get the sense that his/her criticisms of you are exactly what he/she is doing himself/herself.

42. He/she doesn’t seem to know or care how his/her behaviour hurts others.

43. No matter how much you do for him/her, it never seems enough to make him/her contented or happy.

44. He/she often refuses to play by the rules.

45. He/she is intensely jealous when there is no justification.

46. He/she is a pathological liar, and does not like to be pinned down.

47. He/she overestimates who he/she is and what he/she has achieved in his life in the past.

48. He/she is often erratic and unpredictable.

49. He/she tries to limit your contact with and enjoyment of others.

50. He/she doesn’t like it when people other than him/her are receiving attention and praise.

51. He/she is extremely defensive when confronted or questioned and will often attack.

52. He/she uses guilt and manipulation to try to influence you.

53. He/she has little or no sense of conscience.

54. He/she believes he/she knows what you are thinking and feeling, and will inform you what that is.

55. He/she often interrupts you when you are talking, changing the subject.

56. He/she will inform you that the matter is resolved without you feeling it is for you.

57. He/she will refuse to discuss a problem you have brought up.

58. He/she doesn’t sustain many close friendships.

59. He/she cannot work co-operatively or in teams.

60. You have noticed that he/she exploits other people

61. He/she doesn’t admit he/she may have a problem, or ask for help. He/she is above treatment.

62. He/she avoids any real intimacy with you.

63. You don’t get the sense that he/she has a genuine commitment to your welfare.

64. When you act with independence and autonomy, he/she is not happy, and tries to stifle this.

65. He/she rages when you disagree with him/her.

66. After he/she has tortured or belittled you, he/she will act with empathy to soothe you.

67. He/she never talks with you, he/she talks at you or lectures you.

68. You usually feel he/she is emotionally absent, and never fully there.

69. He/she cannot delay gratification. He/she believes himself/herself to be deserving, and doesn’t want to put the time intopersisting.

70. He/she tells you in subtle or not so subtle ways that your perception of reality is wrong or that your feelingsare wrong.

71. He/she seems irritated or angry with you often, even though you haven’t done anything that you know of toupset him/her.

72. You often feel that issues don’t get fully resolved so that you can feel happy and relieved.

73. You frequently feel confused, sad, frustrated or outraged because you can’t get him/her to understand yourintentions.

74. You are upset not so much about concrete issues, but about the communication – what he/she thinks yousaid and what you heard him/her say.

75. He/she rarely wants to share his/her thoughts or plans with you.

76. He/she often denies things that you know he/she did or said.

77.  He/she seems to take the opposite view from you on many things you mention, but the way he/she says it, your view is wrong and his/hers is right.

78. You often feel unseen or unheard, and sometimes wonder if he/she perceives you as a separate person.

79. He/she is either angry or has no idea what you are talking about when you try to discuss an issue with him/her.

80. You feel abused or negated by him/her, but he/she insists how much he/she loves you.

81. When you try to communicate how you feel about something, you feel no empathy from him/her, or he/she negates your feelings.

82. He/she often frightens you with rage to silence you.

83. You often feel no empathy from him/her when you are describing how you feel about something..

84. He/she often manipulates you by ignoring you or withholding affection.

85. You feel diminished by the time he/she finishes his/her conversation with you.

86. He/she always needs to be one up or right.

87. He/she attempts to define you  eg  ”You’re only doing that for attention”.

88. He/she blames, accuses, judges or criticises you.

89. He/she counters, blocks or diverts your conversation.

90. He/she confabulates, ie makes up something negative about you and speaks it as if it is the truth.

91. He/she often is well behaved in public, but abusive in private.

92. He/she will not ask for what he/she wants, so that you can negotiate fairly.

93. He/she will not respond at all to your requests, or will respond with frustration, or will only seem to respond but not follow through.

94. Your attempts to enhance the relationship, improve communication, and find some happiness all lead to difficulties.

95. Whenever you try to explain that you are not thinking what he/she is saying you are thinking or doing, he/shewill not hear or understand, or negates you in some way.

96. He/she behaves well towards you when you are of one mind with him/her, but the trouble starts when you express either different views from him/her or your own feelings.

97. He/she can’t have fun banter with you. The only way he/she has fun with people is if he is having fun at another’s expense.

98. The way he/she treats you has deteriorated radically since you became more settled  together (move in together, got married, started having children)

99. You feel like you are doing all the work in your relationship.

100. You feel energetically drained when with him/her, and energised when not with him/her.



How partners feel when they are attempting to have a relationship with a Narcissist.

In a way that you often can’t exactly identify clearly you can feel:

Very disappointed and disillusioned about who he/she seems to be now, compared with who he/she was in the beginning stages of the relationship

 Relationship counselling sydney Narcissist

Confused because of the lies and half truths he/she continually feeds you

Hurt and shell shocked because of the myriad of ways he/she belittles, criticises and blames you

The relationship feels unrewarding because it never feels that he/she is really there, and it is not possible to share any real intimacy with him/her

Unhappy because he/she always tries to undermine the happiness you create for yourself

Untrusting of yourself because you don’t know what to trust anymore, wanting a real and happy relationship but always feeling that it is not available to you

Intensely frustrating when he/she can’t be reasonable or honour agreements or work with you for a win-win solution

Utter perplexity at how he/she can be so sweet and nice one minute, and so mean and callous the next

Despair at the dawning realisation that he/she doesn’t really care about you or how you feel


How did you find yourself in a relationship with a Narcissist?

narcissistc partner

You may be wondering why anyone would be masochistic enough to ever get themselves into a relationship with such a person; one that leaves you feeling so dreadful?

But the truth is that things start off very differently. The narcissist is an absolute perfect delight right from the first day you start dating: wining, dining and gifts, nothing is too much trouble for him/her; your every whim is his/her desire; he/she is truly the perfect and charming partner.

Finding yourself in a “whirlwind romance”, he/she will appear to be all you have ever wanted in a partner and in a relationship, so much so that it all seems almost “too good to be true”, which of course it is.

At this stage you are his/her “prey”, and he/she is an expert at contriving his/her behaviour to impress you, and being sensitive to what you are wanting, until he/she has snared you. He/she has you in his/her sights as his/her next source of Narcissistic supply, so all his/her energies, shows of love, affection and fake empathy are committed to lure you.

The transition:

However this “impress the socks off” stage doesn’t last, and once he/she now feels secure in the relationship (this happens most commonly at the 3 major transitions: when you move in together, when you get married, or when you start having children) there is now no longer a need for making an effort.

Without realizing it, you are now owned by him/her; you have crossed over into his/her self definition boundary. With this transition comes the expectation that you now are an extension of him/her.

This dumbfounding change can be made almost overnight, or at a more gradual pace, but change it does.

The “Bubble”:

One man described that for him it felt like he and his wife were in a big bubble that he had created as his reality. His wife had freedom, and all was happy, as long as she stayed in the bubble. “There was room to move about so the illusion of freedom seemed real to her. But when she expressed an idea of her own, or any feelings, it was like she was stepping out of his bubble and stepping into her own. But he did not want her out there. He feared being alone with himself. He feared being with his feelings. So he tried to pull her back into his bubble, or worse, injure her so she could never leave, or worse yet, disorient her so she can never find her way out.” Whatever control measure or verbal abuse it took, getting her back inside the bubble where he could feel safe again was his primary objective.

The Narcissist usually feels a great and strong love for his/her partner, but this is in essence a control connection rather than real love. There is no regard for his/her individuality, no empathy or understanding, and usually an angry assault or the silent treatment, every time he/she shows any signs of separateness.

This leaves you feeling shunned, negated, unseen, unheard, trivialised, and, as a result, also very confused, sad, and often outraged that you have been so invaded or negated, every time you express your individuality.

All the while he/she denies any wrongdoing, not being willing to recognise the devastating effects on you.


What happens in a Narcissist’s mind, and how did he/she become a Narcissist?

Narcissism is based on an inflated “false self”, which has developed as a result of a developmental arrest in childhood. As a child, he/she withdrew inwards and resorted to grandiose fantasies of being superior, special, perfectly loved, self sufficient and self important.

 marriage counselling sydney narcissist

This was to cover the vulnerability, self doubt and worthlessness that was at his/her core.

To keep his grandiose “false self” alive in his mind and his fears of abandonment at bay, he/she is in constant search for sources of narcissistic supply, an abundant “fan club”, which will supply him/her with positive attention, adulation and appreciation, and if that is not possible, fear from others will suffice.

The more damage he/she sustained in childhood, the larger the grandiosity and the more severe the Narcissism, and the more donations are desperately needed from others to keep propping up the fantasy self. Emotional pain dominates his/her internal landscape. He/she may project arrogance and charisma, but underneath he/she feels unworthy.

It is a constant and exhausting endeavour as he/she continually seeks to manipulate others to give him/her the required fix. He/she will do anything to get it, and won’t let people’s feelings or the truth get in the way.

To keep this all going internally, he/she uses a combination of 6 defense mechanisms

1. Splitting is the first one. This means he/she fails to regard anyone, including himself/herself, as a composite of good and bad. Instead, he/she sees everyone as either “all good” or “all bad”. He/she, of course is “all good”, and you as the partner begin by being “all good” which has him/her idealising you, and internalising you to support his/her grandiosity, but as soon as you fail to do this, you become “all bad” and he/she immediately devalues you, with the resulting punishment in various forms metered out to you.

2.  Dissociation & altered perception. Narcissists often recall things very differently from healthy people, or fail to recall things at all if they don’t resonate with his/her superiority.

3.  Rationalisation is the assertion that a flaw doesn’t exist, or if it does, it isn’t the Narcissists. (“There is nothing wrong with me.  I never have problems”) These rationalisations can be very convoluted and obscure, as they often fly in the face of observable facts.

4. Projection is the curious strategy whereby the Narcissist is subconsciously aware of what he/she is in fact doing himself, but  projects it onto you, with the result that you then get blamed for exactly what he/she is doing himself/herself, and he/she casts himself/herself as the blameless victim.

5. Denial is simply the assertion that something is not so, when ordinary observation or common sense confirms that it is in fact true. Anything that doesn’t reinforce his/her grandiose image will be denied. The Emperor has no clothes and he can’t be told.

6. Blame shifting is what happens when the Narcissist insists there is nothing possibly wrong with him/her, so all the blame must be attributed to you or everyone else in the world.


How did you become a willing victim? Why you?

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If you find yourself in a relationship with a Narcissist, at some stage you might wonder why you?  What does this say about you, your tolerance for pain and your sanity?

It is true that there is a particular kind of person that finds themself with a Narcissist, at least often well beyond the first indication that there is an underlying nastiness in him.

The kind of person who seems to unwittingly attract a Narcissist is someone who has what I call a “Sacrificial Self”, (which has also been referred to as Co-dependent or compliant or a deflated false self). This means you may have a tendency to unnecessarily attribute blame to yourself in situations when you haven’t done anything wrong.

In Transactional Analysis terms, a Narcissist’s underlying Life position is I’m Ok, You’re Not OK, whereas  a Sacrificial’s underlying Life Position is I’m Not OK, You’re OK.


How Can I tell if I am a Sacrificial Self?

Here again, it is important to understand that there are varying degrees of this kind of Self, as there are with a Narcissistic self.

A Sacrificial person is characterised by:

1. A deflated False self

2. Your feelings are often numbed, and you are not always aware of them in the moment

3. You experience a lack of awareness of your own needs.

4. You also are not good at knowing what your real wants are.

5. You often feel guilt and shame for not being able to meet people’s needs

6. Your loved ones withdrawing their love, or threatening to withdraw it, triggers a lot of anxiety in you

7. You are often not truly in touch with your own deeper truth

8. You can often prefer to live in a fantasy where you believe your partner truly loves you, even though much of the evidence can show you the contrary

9. You have experienced poor self esteem over your life

10. You are not always able to see where your boundaries should and shouldn’t be

11. You are not often able to assertively stand up to those you love

12. You can at times feel a vague sense of depression and emptiness

13. You can lack a sense of a healthy entitlement in your relationships

14. You can often feel frustrated and dissatisfied with your life

15. There are times when you feel your life has no meaning

16. You have an underlying belief that I must sacrifice myself to survive in a relationship

17. In a relationship, you may be responsive and reactive to your partner, rather than proactive

18. You excessively blame yourself in your relationship

19. You often have the underlying sense that if something is going right for you at the moment, it probably won’t last.

20. You tend to take more than your fair share of responsibility in a relationship, to make it better and improve it.

Interestingly and importantly, a Sacrificial’s profile is less defended that the Narcissist, and less destructive to others, and therefore closer to achieving a healthy relationship, if you can gain true insight into what is happening and what is going wrong in your relationships and be able to develop a stronger identity and boundaries.

If this is you, during your childhood, as you were developing your real self and identity as an individual, your mother or father may have been challenged by your emerging separate self. It often happens that she or her was a Narcissist. So whenever you expressed your real feelings, needs or wants, you were abandoned, criticised or blamed. Often, your relationship with your parent was set up so that you took responsibility for meeting your parents’ needs, rather than she/he meeting your needs.

So you learned that in order to survive and experience any form of love and attention, you had to abandon yourself and “toe the line”.

As a result your individual identity may have been severely compromised.


You may not have had the opportunity to:

– Develop your own deep truth and reality

– Form healthy boundaries to keep out unwanted and unhealthy influences

– Feel your real feelings

– Be aware of your needs and wants

– Have permission to explore your desires and creativity

This often leads to an underlying depression, frustration and dissatisfaction which feeds the belief “In order to have love, I have to avoid self activation” and “I am not entitled to genuine love and also my own full self expression”.

When not in a relationship, you may feel empty, as you have not been given the experience of growing your real identity, (which is a composite of your truth, feelings, needs, wants, desires, passions and boundaries)

So, when in a relationship you may cling  and try very hard, minimise your feelings, needs and wants, as well as hold yourself back from being assertive in what you want, and even believe what your partner is saying over what you may think is the your truth, and  trust him over yourself.

In addition to these personal characteristics, there are other reasons why you can get caught up and remain in a Narcissist’s web.


Why have I allowed this kind of controlling behaviour into my life?

Here are some of the reasons why you may have allowed this type of controlling behaviour in to your relationship.

 marriage counselling sydney narcissist

1. You assume that there is good will, that your partner really does want to understand you, and when he/she she doesn’t, it is because you haven’t been able to explain it fully enough. (In fact a Narcissist is trying to control, not understand you at all, despite their protestations to the contrary)

2. The Narcissist usually expresses great love for you, and also shows love in other ways with gifts and kind things, so it seems inconceivable that he/she would also be trying to devalue your thoughts and feelings.

3. These controlling events usually happen in private, and as well, there is usually a complete denial of any wrong doing by the Narcissist, so your suspicions are never validated by anyone else, so you can feel your going crazy, or perhaps over reacting.

4. The Narcissist can very often turn it around and project it onto you, so you are then blamed for something he/she is actually doing. You can start questioning your sanity.

5.Frequent assaults over time can tend to normalise these acts in your mind, and you can begin to question yourself.

6. The Narcissist has usually been so lovable up until the transition, that it is very difficult to rationalise such a change in him/her.

7. You can believe your partner is rational, and has often made a wrong assumption about you, and when you explain it to him/her, then he/she will understand. (However you find that no matter how much you attempt to explain your view, they never understand. This is because they are not there to understand, they are there to distort your view.)

8.You have not been aware of such a thing as Narcissism, verbal abuse and controlling measures, and though even though you have felt hurt and frustrated and confused, you haven’t understood what has been going on.

9. You can think your feelings are wrong.

10. Your partner can be good at times and not at others, adding to the confusion.

11. The abuse can be subtle, with the control increasing gradually over time, so you gradually adapt to it.

12. You can sometime be so stunned or thrown off balance to be able to think clearly about what has just happened.

What can you do if you are living with a Narcissist?

If you are in a relationship with a Narcissist, in his mind, you are an extension of him/her and he/she must always win, so his/her eruptions of temper and ego and devaluations and guilt are sharp and designed to cut you to the core, leaving you wounded.

So, in an overall sense, you will experience problems with his/her lack of honesty, humility and empathy for your feelings.

narcissim marriage counselling

Also, he/she will have difficulties with intimacy with you. Honestly sharing your thoughts, feelings and desires with each other makes the Narcissist very scared and vulnerable, so he/she will avoid it.

He/she is unable to relate to other people other than in terms of his own inflated self image and his unrealistic projections of himself/herself onto others, so as his/her partner you are expected to provide adulation and perfect responsiveness. When you fail to do this, you can expect to be devalued, by raging, blaming or the silent treatment.

These rapid vacillations between absolutely overvaluing (and idealising) you, and then completely devaluing you make a healthy relationship almost impossible to sustain.

The best advice is to be aware of and recognise what is happening and stand up for yourself on each occasion. How effective this strategy will be will dependent on your commitment to not back down, and his/her degree of Narcissism.

Most partners find that standing up for themselves in the relationship is fraught with difficulties, as often the Narcissist will double and treble his/her defensive responses when you start to do so, in order for you to retreat to the way you were, so realistically, most partners find that the support of a good counsellor/Psychologist who understands these challenges is usually needed.


Can your relationship be helped?

If both you and your partner are committed to make your relationship a healthy and happy one, then I believe this is worth working on.

Finding a Psychologist who is familiar and experienced with these conditions is important as Narcissism can be notoriously difficult to pick up in a few sessions if the Psychologist is not trained in this. (Education on Narcissism is taught in Psychology courses but does not fully explain the widespread occurrence of this condition, and also the full ramifications of this, particularly to the partner.

We at the Hart Centre are committed to ongoing education and training in these areas and in supporting you in managing yourself and your relationships.)

The success of relationship and marriage counselling depends on many factors, but is largely due to the commitment of both partners to see their patterns and contributions, and be willing to change. Your partner’s ability to do this will depend on his level of Narcissism.

You will often not know how willing you and your partner are to do this until you attempt to do so.  You will be able to see for yourselves over 3 to 6 sessions what real effort each of you are putting in to see the problems, own your contributions and make changes.

If, after reading the information here, you feel you are definitely living with a Narcissist, I suggest you come to the first session (or book a Skype session) on your own.

If you feel your first choice is to work on your relationship, then we can then follow this first session with a session with your partner individually, then commence couples sessions with both of you.


Plan B

I also suggest that there is a Plan B in place, so that after an agreed on number of couples sessions, if you feel you are not achieving the changes and results you want, then you continue coming to sessions on your own to look at your options and be supported in doing your own work of rebuilding your Identity, boundaries and possibly new life.


Relationship and Individual Counselling is available by our trained Psychologists in 70 locations Australia wide, including Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and more – either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins

Find your nearest Psychologist from the Search box on the right hand side of this page.

Cost: Prices range from $150 to $220 for a 50 minute session.

Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment.
Private Health Insurance Rebates apply and Medicare Rebates may apply (please check for details)


Individual Empowerment help for you as a Partner

 relationship counselling sydney empowerment

You may choose to come for individual sessions on your own, if you prefer to continue to stay in the relationship and also work on your own self empowerment and assertiveness in your sessions with the Psychologist. If your partner’s degree of Narcissism is not severe and he/she is more benevolent, this can be worthwhile and helpful to develop your capacity to find your own strength and hold your ground with him/her.

If his/her degree of Narcissism is more severe and you would like help in breaking away from him/her, then we can assist and support you in doing so also. It can be a profound act of self love to accept who he/she is and to step away for your own well being.

As you leave a Narcissist, most partners go through the 5 phases of grief: Denial, rage, bargaining, sadness and acceptance.

Without the support of a helping knowledgeable Professional, many  partners  find it  very difficult to get past the denial stage, or repeatedly go back to their partner (in the bargaining stage), or can become stuck in rage against their partner.

Additionally, it is very easy to unwittingly “attract” another Narcissist into your life in your next relationship if you haven’t been able to look at your own patterns of why you have attracted, accommodated and tolerated this kind of behaviour.

Therefore it is important to understand, process and learn from this painful experience, so that you are rewarded with a stronger sense of self, compassion for yourself, and are able to move on to a mutually beneficial  real loving relationship in the future.

Personal Empowerment/ Recovery Program:

Our Personal Empowerment/ Recovery program involves 12 steps:

1. Insight and a thorough understanding of the dynamics of what has been happening in your relationships.

2. Uncover and express your feelings and have these feelings and experiences validated by someone who understands what you have been experiencing.

 3. Process these emotions and recognise these patterns from past relationships, including your parents, in order to clear them from your subconscious patterns.

4. Discovering your genuine needs and wants as an individual and in a relationship.

5. Be aware of your feelings and manage your emotional self on a daily basis.

6. Learn to build healthy boundaries with others, where you care for but don’t take on emotional responsibility for anyone other than yourself.

7. Rediscover your own intuition and trust it again, rather than your partner’s negative views of you.

8. Encouragement to believe in yourself again and recognise your magnificence.

9. Recognising and managing the desire to go back to the unhealthy Narcissist.

10. Help redesign your life from the inside out, trusting in yourself and who you really are.

11. Find the Gift in this relationship for you. How have you grown in yourself as a result of these experiences?

12. Moving onto a new equal relationship ensuring a healthy love. Narcissist screening test, and learn the ability to recognise the difference between real love and fake or controlling love.

 relationship counselling sydney empowerment

This Individual Program is available by our trained Psychologists in 70 locations Australia wide, either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins. This program will take from 2 to 6 sessions, depending on your needs and circumstances.

Cost: Prices range for $150 to $220 for a 50 minute session.

Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment.
Private Health Insurance Rebates apply and Medicare Rebates may apply (please check for details)


Why can it be so difficult to leave a Narcissist?

Anyone who has left a relationship with a Narcissist knows that it can be a very challenging process. Here are a few reasons why this kind of breaking up presents extra difficulties over and above leaving an ordinary relationship:

It is difficult to understand what has happened and who he/she really is. Without the inside knowledge of what Narcissism is, it is almost impossible to understand why there appears to be 2 completely different people inside him/her, how he/she can have changed so dramatically, why he/she is so nice at times and then so nasty at others, and what causes that change. Also he/she has talked about love and higher values in the beginning, but his/her real behaviour has mostly reflected selfishness and self interest.

You can keep waiting for the initial person you fell in love with to re-emerge. He/she did such an effective job of his “Sales Presentation” to you in the courting phase, seeming to be all you could have wanted in a partner, and he/she was so believable, that you just want that version of him/her to re-appear again, so you can have the relationship you thought you were going to have and have committed to, and just be able to continue with that.

But, unfortunately, the initial version of him/her that you fell in love with, is NOT REAL. The feelings, passion and intensity he/she first showered you with were all part of his/her sales presentation. This version of him/her will not come back, because there is no substance to it. It is not real. It was the lure to get you in. He/she will only use it again if he/she decides he/she wants to re-lure you back in.

It may feel unfinished in that there seemed to be so much promise that hasn’t really happened yet. He/she may well have promised you the world, and you have been left with crumbs. He/she is very capable of a great seduction and pretence when courting you, but not at all interested, nor is he/she capable, of being a real partner in any real way, with empathy and compromise from each other.

You may feel if only he/she understood how hurt you have been then it would change him/her. It can be difficult to accept that he/she really doesn’t care about how hurt you are as a result of his/her behaviour. He/she may have pretended to care initially, so you want to believe that he/she does really, but in reality he/she doesn’t, and it can be difficult to accept that you have given your love and commitment to someone who just doesn’t care how hurt you are feeling.

marriage counselling sydney emotional withdrawal

You can take on some of the blame your partner has thrown at you,(and continues to project onto you) and blame yourself. By the time you have decided to leave, you will have experienced your share of put downs, belittling, judgements and criticisms, both subtle and very obvious. While these constitute his/her projections of his/her own characteristics only, it is difficult not to take on some of them, particularly when he/she has repeatedly blamed you. This may leave you thinking that some of this has actually been your fault and perhaps if you tried harder, you could make it work.

Please know that while you have participated in this dance with the Narcissist, you have NOT contributed in the way you are blaming yourself. In fact you have probably tried too hard in the relationship already, and not seen that he/she has not been willing to take responsibility for his/her part in it. It is now time to take responsibility for yourself and your own happiness.

There is no closure with the Narcissist. He/she will not be interested in acknowledging his/her part in the relationship ending, so you will not be able to have any shared closure with him/her. He/she may, more likely, be projecting and blaming you for everything, while keeping himself/herself squeaky clean in his/her fantasy world. He/she may also want to involve others close by, sharing his/her fantasy version of how wonderful he/she has been and how badly you have. He/she may even pathologize you to keep his/her grandiose version of himself/herself inflated.

Remind yourself that in actuality, he/she is covering his/her terror and worthlessness with a fantasy based on rationalisations and lies, and that you know in your own truth what efforts you have made.

narcissism problems marriage counselling

It may be difficult to understand why he/she doesn’t really try to work on the relationship. To be willing to work on your relationship, you need to be honest and accountable, two things a true narcissist can’t tolerate. In reality, he/she doesn’t see he/she has a problem and doesn’t want the relationship to be any different from what it is. He/she has created the fantasy this way, and he/she wants it to stay this way as it is serving his/her narcissistic needs. This is usually more important than any relationship to him/her.

You may question just what in the relationship was real at all. It can be extremely mindbogglingly painful to realise that you have been taken in by a clever conman/woman and have trusted this person when he/she was far from trust worthy, and for as long as you have. Also, that his/her motives have not been to love you, as stated, but simply to gain his/her Narcissistic supply from you, a mere source for him/her.

It takes time, processing, deep soul searching, and usually assistance from an therapist experienced in Narcissism to come to the full realisation of the reality of the relationship you have been living in, and to be able to fully heal, have closure and move on to a healthier relationship. 


Can the Narcissist be helped?

Narcissists are usually extremely satisfied with themselves, therefore it follows that they see no reason to come for counselling or help when they ‘do not need any’. The fact that they are causing huge problems for others around them does not tend to enter their consciousness.

Here again, it really depends on how severe their narcissism is. The more defended a Narcissist, the less likely he/she will see himself with a problem, and the less likely he/she will stick to therapy.

A severe Narcissist will usually only admit to a problem when he/she has been abandoned, and feels destitute and devastated, when he/she feels he/she doesn’t want to feel any more of this pain.

Even when he/she does attend therapy, either as couples counselling or on his/her own, there can be a lack of follow through and continuation beyond a few initial sessions, and his/her behaviour can revert easily.

Having said that, therapy is really the only way a Narcissist has to help himself/herself lose his/her over inflated Grandiose self, his/her underlying anxiety and develop a true self with the resulting contentment and happiness that this delivers.

This needs to be initiated (and acknowledged)by the Narcissist and I believe is worth trying, even if results are mixed.

Julie Hart – Psychologist


Relationship and Individual Counselling is available by our trained Psychologists in 70 locations Australia wide, either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins.

Please check our Search box on the right hand side of the page for our Psychologist nearest you.

Cost: Prices range from $150 to $220 for a 50 minute session.

Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment.
Private Health Insurance Rebates apply and Medicare Rebates may apply (please check for details)


If you require help in your relationship from one of our expert psychologists, we offer:

Relationship counselling Melbourne

Relationship counselling Sydney

Relationship counselling other locations 


Please check out these fantastic resources from Jenny Mawter on Narcissism.

These first are her most recent ones:


Why relationships go wrong

Relationships can be the most rewarding and most frustrating areas of our lives.

Very few of us have been shown how to have a good relationship. It is not surprising, then, that sooner or later problems surface.

Even though your intentions are good, you often lack the knowledge and insight into what has happened and how you have got into such a stuck place.

If you have been experiencing difficulties in your relationship for some time, and trying what you know to improve things, it can be easy to begin to feel hopeless, and helpless.

While most people find it easy to see how their partner is contributing to the problems, it’s not so easy to see how you are.

Most of us begin a relationship hoping that all our emotional needs will be met by our partner. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. That’s our natural narcissism.

This is inevitably followed by disappointment, as we discover this is not and will not be the case. Our relationship shows us through pain what we need to develop in ourselves first and foremost before we can truly love our partner.

From my study of Relationships over many years, I have discovered that there seem to be 4 key factors that form the core of why our relationships can go awry

1. Your relationship with yourself.
sydney marriage counselling for healthy relationships

Interestingly, your relationship with your partner has more to do with your relationship with yourself than anything else. That doesn’t mean how self centred or selfish you are. It refers to your level of self esteem, solid sense of self, or differentiation.

How do you know if you have a good relationship with yourself, or are psychologically mature?

  • You have a clear and solid sense of yourself (you change your beliefs from within, not by coercion)
  • You are responsible for yourself, your life, and your emotions (you are not a victim)
  • You know your boundaries and you don’t let your partner violate them and control you in any way
  • You are aware of, and let go of, any controlling, manipulating or coercion of your partner.
  • You let go of expecting your partner to meet all your emotional needs ( your narcissism)
  • You know what you need and can take care of your own needs
  • You know what you want in your relationship.
  • You know what you will and won’t tolerate in your relationship.
  • You hold dear and take a stand for what you want
  • You are aware of your emotions and take responsibility for them
  • You don’t argue or over-react.
  • You are willing to tolerate discomfort for growth

The better the relationship you can develop with yourself, the more you can love your partner, and the more passionate and desiring you are of him/her. This is desire out of fullness, rather than out of need. 

And in your relationship:

  • You love and respect your partner as different from you
  • You openly share how you think and feel (even if he/she doesn’t validate you)
  • You listen and want to understand your partner
  • You want to share your life with your partner
  • You see your partner for who he/she is.
  • You desire your partner sexually out of fullness, rather than need
  • You feel free to be yourself with your partner

relationship counselling sydney for happy relationships

Most people have not developed a good relationship with themselves.

The more insecure you are in yourself, the more you are going to want to either control your partner (which naturally causes conflict), or let your partner control you (which causes resentment, or “getting back”).

This is the single biggest factor in relationship, intimacy and sexual problems.

So a large part of making your relationship happy, vibrant and intimate is being able to recognize either when you are being controlling, (and decide to let go of that behaviour), or when you are  allowing yourself to be controlled against your wishes, (and decide to stand up for yourself).

A most common occasion that we exert control over our partner is in our communication. You might like to check, which of the following ways has your communication been controlling lately?

  • Pressure to change – tell partner that he/she is wrong/how to behave or my way is the right way
  • Attacks, put downs, criticisms
  • Annihilate, unsettle, undermine, deliberately confuse
  • Frighten with displays of anger and rage
  • Blame and complain
  • Ask for something and expect to get
  • Manipulate through guilt
  • Rescue, fix, sooth
  • Judge
  • Be dismissive
  • Give with strings attached
  • Be arrogant and contemptuous
  • Be pushy
  • Use threats

Or the more subtle ones:

  • Withdraw
  • Shut down
  • Reject
  • Be precious, over-react
  • Be stubborn
  • Procrastinate

To have the best relationship you can have with yourself, you can ask yourself:

  • Am I prepared to stop my controlling ways?
  • What ways am I being controlled by my partner? Is he/she prepared to stop them?
  • How do I “get my partner back” for his/her controlling me?
  • To what extent am I looking after my own needs?
  • What would I like to be different in our relationship?
  • Am I closing down sexually? If so, why?

2. Your Personality Type

personality differences relationship counselling sydney

Understanding your personality type in more depth can give you a huge insight into how you are contributing to the problems you are experiencing.

I have found the Enneagram with its 9 types offers both a brief and in-depth insight into your strengths and also your limitations. Also, how you are either trying to control your partner, or allowing yourself to be controlled, as well as a personal growth path for overcoming your limitations, and reaching your fullest potential as an individual. You can also start to understand your partner in a whole new way.

To learn more about each of the 9 personality types, check out the free article “How do I contribute to our problems”

If you’d like to understand more about both your personality and your partner’s and how they interact, and how you can bring out the best in each other, we have designed some special sessions either in-house or by phone of Skype.

3. Knowing and managing your emotions and Communication.

communication marriage counselling sydney

All poor communication is created because very few people really know what’s going on inside them emotionally.

This lack of awareness unwittingly leads you to acting out defensive patterns on your partner and others. So it can be hugely helpful to become more aware of, and manage well, your emotions, sharing them with your partner when appropriate.

We have developed a simple process which can have you managing your inner states and communicating well with your partner with just a little practice.

Give us a ring and make an appointment if you would like help with your communication. We have 70 Relationship Psychologists across Australia. One near you.


4. The Masculine/Feminine difference.

masculine feminine differences in marriage

It’s the subject of more jokes than any other topic. It is true that, in many ways, the male and female brain are wired differently, and we can be thankful of that because the magnetic attraction you feel for each other gives your relationship juice and vibrancy, along with bringing a breadth to your relationship.

Actually, we all have some masculine and feminine in us, but most people find that, in essence, they are predominately one or the other.

Here are some of the differences:

The Masculine: The Feminine
Pushes and guides Invites and attracts
Has direction in the world Is at home in life, love & sensual  pleasure
Protects and provides Nurtures
Under stress, can become detached Under stress, can become more emotional
Gives less when he receives more Gives more when she receives less
Won’t let the score become uneven Will give more than she gets
Contracted awareness : focus on self Expansive awareness : responsive to others
Blames others first Blames themselves first
Needs time to mull over thoughts Needs a listening ear to share feelings
Will punish if criticized Will induce guilt
Withdraws, grumbles and shuts down when stressed Becomes overwhelmed, over-reacts and exhausted when stressed
Needs appreciation, trust and acceptance Needs respect, care and understanding

An essential part of making your relationship work well is to honour, value and understand the inherent differences and gifts we each can bring to the relationship, rather than judge and devalue them.

It is a smart man who appreciates the beauty, love and rich emotional life his wife brings into his life, and a wise woman who appreciates the strength, direction and protection her man so willingly gives her.


Why put in the effort in your relationship?

Through your continued efforts in working through your relationship problems and conflicts, you grow your own psychological maturity.

If both of you can do this, you can develop a relationship with your partner of true equality, mutual respect, equal energy exchange and input, and equal willingness to grow, where renewed romance, intimacy and playful sexuality abound.

Couples who have achieved this kind of relationship overwhelmingly feel that it was well worth the ride to get there.

smart relationship counselling sydney

The fact that you have taken the time to understand and address your relationship issues, and along with a willingness to try new things, means that you have a high chance of successfully re-creating your relationship anew, and often one that is better than you have ever had before.

It is our privilege to help you in your process.

If you would like help in assessing your relationship and what might be causing your relationship difficulties, please call us or check search our psychologists from the right hand bar. Relationships are our specialty and we would love to help you.

Julie Hart

How do you contribute to your relationship problems?

Your Enneagram Profile

If you really want to look in depth at why the two of you have the unique relationship and problems that you have, look no further than the Enneagram.

One of the most helpful ways to discover yourself and just as importantly, how you contribute to your relationship problems, is to look at your Enneagram profile.

What is the Enneagram?

The modern Enneagram is based on ancient Eastern wisdom combined with modern Psychological thought. There are 9 Personality types each with different patterns of thinking, feeling and acting. Each style has its own natural gifts, limitations, and blind spots.

When you know your Enneagram number, you can then be aware of the unconscious assumptions that drive the way you see yourself, do your work, and relate in your relationships.

And you can also understand why your partner seems to act in the bizarre, inconsiderate, intrusive, self-interested, seductive or charming ways that he or she does.

Enneagram relationship counselling

Once you know how he or she see things from the inside out, you can see why they do the things they do which makes perfect sense to them.

There are no types that are better than any other. Each is effective in their own way, but from a very different point of view.

  • Ones want to make things right.
  • Twos need to be of help.
  • Threes are driven to succeed.
  • Fours yearn to be special.
  • Fives want to be left alone to think.
  • Sixes seek safety and support.
  • Sevens are connoisseurs of life’s pleasures.
  • Eights are driven to dominate others.
  • Nines don’t want to make waves.

Ones. The Perfectionist

You are reliable, fair and honest. You earn love by being perfect and worry about getting it right. You seem right to be measuring up to the highest standards. Your thinking centre’s around what you “should” be doing. It feels honourable to dedicate yourself to doing good. You can’t help noticing when standards slip. You feel compelled to fix it. You very conscientiously monitor your own self actions. In self defence, you can feel morally superior by finding fault with others.

Ones in a relationship can contribute by being critical, judgemental, inflexible, argumentative, having too high standards, being uncompromising and overly serious.

Ones are helped by partners who accept differences of opinion, who soften the One Right Way thinking, and who bring pleasure to a relationship.


Twos. The Giver

You are loving, warm and generous. You are always focusing on other people, their wants, needs and potentials. You spend your life pleasing and supporting others and managing their lives. Your own needs are not important, you give to others and hope that they will care about you when you are in need. Other’s needs broadcast so loudly, that you find yourself moulding to please. Wanting approval, an association forms in which you become indispensable. You feel proud that you are so helpful.

Twos in a relationship can contribute by being overly accommodating, possessive, martyr-like, manipulative, insincere and hysterical.

Twos are helped by partners who are not seduced by your adaption, who love you separately from what you give, and who can see you through the crisis of having to stand alone and discover your own needs.


Threes. The Performer

You are energetic, industrious and practical. You win love through your achievement and your image. It is very important to be high profile and high powered at work. You are sensitive to status. You want to be first, to lead, and to be seen. You like to impress people. Work is the area of interest; your feelings are suspended while the job gets done. You believe people in love should look happy and productive, love shouldn’t be overwhelming or sad.

Threes in a relationship can contribute by being self centred, vain, superficial, overly competitive, deceptive and defensive.

Threes are helped by partners who love them for who they are rather than what they produce, or the image they project to the world.


Fours. The Romantic

relationship romantic

You are perceptive, expressive and individualistic. You feel a lifelong searching for a heart connection. You know all about attraction, hate, high drama and pain. You like an elegant lifestyle and to dress distinctively and uniquely. You often feel you are searching for love at a distance, then can feel disappointed when love is near at hand. We had it once. Where did it go? Emotional highs and lows are part of your life. You can feel deprived when you see others enjoy the happiness that you long for.

Fours in a relationship can contribute by being temperamental, self absorbed, emotionally needy, snobbish, depressed, and self indulgent.

Fours are helped by partners who can see the good in the here and now and who can stand fast during the intense emotional tides.


Fives. The Observer.

You are objective, calm and insightful. Your home is your castle where you like to withdraw to. You need low visibility, controlled contact with people, and uninterrupted private time. Your mind is your best companion and is also a refuge that is totally safe from invasion. Your needs are few as are your expectations of others. You detach from love and stay well away from any charged emotions in yourself or others.

Fives in a relationship can contribute by being contentious, arrogant, stingy, withdrawn, stubborn, withholding and alienated.

Fives are helped by partners who can make self disclosure safe, who can point out over-intellectualization and who respect your need for privacy time and space.


Sixes. The Trooper.

You are alert, witty and loyal. You question love and a rosy future. You are afraid to believe in love and be betrayed. You tend to be always wary, to question authority and to look for what others “really mean”. Your habit is to sceptical and cautious, and to look for hidden intentions. You are primed for opposition and doubtful of others support. When you’re flooded by apprehension, you go into thinking mode rather than doing. You can grow by regaining faith in people and learning to trust.

Sixes in a relationship can contribute by being anxious, paranoid, rigid, testy, suspicious, hypervigilant and cruel.

Sixes are helped by partners who offer reassurance, who remain steadfast when the future looks doubtful, and who are consistently fair in their dealings.


Sevens. The Epicure.

enneagram 7 relationship counselling

You are enthusiastic, fun-loving and spontaneous. Your life is an adventure and you are optimistic about it. Your world is full of options and ideas and plans to make the future bright. Everything’s alright when you’re looking ahead to a good time. Life’s OK when the energy starts to run.

Your life is like a banquet of experience, stuffing the weekly schedule and filling the mind with plans. Disappointments barely surface, suddenly there’s a whole new idea. You feel buoyed by a sense of personal worth and follow your interests. You don’t need to touch on the painful aspects of life.

Sevens in a relationship can contribute by being self centred, impulsive, rebellious, manic, restless, distractible and unreliable.

Sevens are helped by partners who encourage you to stay rather than move on to the next project and who can encourage you to touch on and deal with your pain.


Eights. The Boss.

You are energetic, brave and direct. You express your love through protection of your loved ones and respect for others is earned by power. You set the rules. A battle mentality is your normal mode. You know what you stand for, you know who stands against you, and you protect your position. You have a full bore approach to life. The energy switch is either on or off. When life is interesting, the energy comes on. You’re fully into it and you want to be in there first. You don’t often notice that others get stood on or forgotten.

Eights in a relationship can contribute by being insensitive, domineering, overly aggressive, combative, uncompromising and self centred.

Eights are helped by partners who stick to their own version of the truth, who hold ground under fire and who encourage you to allow the gentler and more sensitive parts of you to emerge.


Nines. The Mediator.

You are accepting, gentle and receptive. You tend to merge with your partner, losing your boundaries. You are so easy going, you forget your own priorities. You can take on another’s life as your own. There can be lots of energy for your partner’s agendas. You don’t feel you can say “No” to others but will get stubborn rather than get openly angry. You can relate to all sides of an argument, so it’s easy to forget your own agenda. It is so difficult to make decisions when you can see the benefits of all the options. You get sidetracked to incidental chores rather than do what’s important.

Nines in a relationship can contribute by being apathetic, stubborn, unassertive, spaced out, forgetful and overly accommodating.

Nines can be helped by partners who encourage you to have separate goals and to choose for yourself, and also support you to see your goals through to completion.


This is just a very small taste of what the Enneagram can show you about yourself, your partner and the dynamics in your relationship. If you would like to learn more about yourselves and each other, and why you have the unique relationship and problems you have,  call us.

Julie Hart

Are you a doormat in your relationship?

Can anyone be “too nice” and “too much of a pleaser” in a relationship?

If someone is inconsiderate of you, or walks all over you, do you smile politely while quietly seething underneath?

Do you find yourself catering for others needs and even whims even when there is no real reciprocation on their part? (for example Angela and Allan’s romance and relationship was based on lots of give and take. Angela gave – which included back rubs, complements and gifts, and Allan took, without ever thinking to reciprocate in any way)

Why am I a doormat?

Many doormats  rationalize to themselves that they are taking the moral highroad in their relationships, that if they model kind and thoughtful behaviour towards their partner, he or she might also treat them in the same way, but more often than not, this does not result in a more considerate partner, but rather a more self- centred one.

Too often long suffering partners find themselves with people who exploit them mercilessly.

An unbalanced relationship

If you find that in your relationship, you are doing all the giving and your partner is doing all the taking, you are in an unbalanced relationship.

women's loss of self in relationship

It is important to understand why this happens for you.

While your endless tolerance might seem to be coming from a deep and abiding love, in fact it is almost certainly arising from fear.

You tendency not to say anything negative about your relationship, or to speak up about for your own needs and wants, and to just put up with what you are given, is borne of a number of fears. You can be fearful of anger from your partner, fearful of conflict, fearful of losing control, or fearful of emotional abandonment. These fears usually originate in your childhood experiences.

Having this awareness of why  is the first step to doing something constructive about changing your situation.

How can you know if you are a Door Mat?

There are 2 red flags to alert you that you are behaving as a Door mat.

1. You notice a tendency among the people around you to become increasingly selfish, exploitative and unfair.

2. You notice a growing disconnection between your own feelings and your actions, directly proportional to how badly you’re being treated. For example even though you continue to tolerate bad and selfish behaviour, you are beginning to feel hurt, resentful or even seething with underlying rage.

Listen to this underlying anger. It is telling you that what you are doing is not good for you; that on a deeper level your psyche is railing against this unfair and unkind treatment.

Often those who are doormats worry that the only alternative to grovelling niceness is aggressive dominance, but this is not the case. There is a middle ground called assertiveness, which is nether passive or aggressive, and it is the only healthy way to behave in a relationship.

The way forward to feeling happy in a healthy relationship involves 4 steps:

counselling for a happy relationship

1. Honestly assess what is happening in your relationship and whether your relationship is balanced and fair or not (whether it be your partner or anyone else in your family, your friends or at work)

2. Express your truth  authentically and firmly to this person.This might be that you are having a problem with his/her behaviour, stating your needs or wants in your relationship, or your views.

3. Hold your ground. Expect that you might receive some negative emotional outburst or reaction, but stay firm and as neutral as possible.

4. Be open to feedback without collapsing or abandoning your own perspective.

5. If your partner can not accept or tolerate your truth or needs or perspective when you have expressed them in a clear and firm manner, then you may wish to consider whether this person really has your best interests at heart, and begin to question your wisdom in continuing this relationship.

Often when you are trying to break the habits of a lifetime, you can need support in doing so. Our Psychologists Australia wide, are trained to help you through these passages and into more healthier and happier ways of being and relationships.

Both Relationship and Individual Counselling is available by our trained Psychologists in 60 locations Australia wide, in Sydney and all capital and large regional cities, either In-house, by Phone or Skype Sessions – 50 mins

Phone 1300 830 552 to enquire or make an appointment.
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